, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 87-92
Date: 29 Jul 2009

Age-related migration patterns in Larus fuscus spp.

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Migration is a critical period in a bird’s life that can affect the fitness of individuals. Intra-population migratory patterns and the way different sex and/or age classes within a population differ in timing and/or distance of migration are not completely understood. The present study aims to observe inter- and intra-population migratory patterns in the western population of Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Larus fuscus spp.), shedding light on age-related differences of temporal patterns of occurrence in the Portuguese coastal areas during migration and winter. One thousand seven hundred and fifty-four colour ring records were analysed matching a 30-year period of observations on the Portuguese coast between 1975 and 2005. During migration, the graellsii population represents 90% of the migratory flow of L. fuscus through Portugal with the intermedius accounting for 9% and the fuscus population, being vestigial in this period, accounting for 1%. Nevertheless, interesting significant differences were observed between the age classes of the three populations during this period, the graellsii population having a large number of first winters (40% of the migratory contingent of this population) followed by immatures and adults whilst in the intermedius and fuscus populations, the largest age class is the adults. During winter, no inter-population differences were found. When comparing migration and winter periods, intra-population differences were found in the graellsii and fuscus populations regarding distribution and age classes. These results indicate different migratory routes amongst different populations suggesting a leapfrog migration in L. fuscus and also a differential age-related migration pattern that might result from first winters migrating further south in search of a wintering place since adults heavily occupy the closest wintering quarters in their attempt to arrive earlier at their breeding ground.

Communicated by P. Heeb